‘Stoney’ may get second chance

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Nancy Parsons
Landmark News Service
GREAT FALLS – Two years ago, a piece of history was uncovered in Great Falls.
“Stoney Lonesome,” the old town jail, was unearthed. But now the brick building sits abandoned with weeds and bushes growing up around it.
Great Falls Mayor Don Camp says he has not abandoned the historical project. He said the weather has prevented plans to spruce up the area and make the piece of history a place people would want to visit.
Camp said he has known for years about the former jail behind the old Belk building and former Republic Mill No. 1. He said he wanted to uncover it for a long time.
Camp thinks the jail was built about 101 years ago, during the inception of the town.
Two years ago, he said he hoped to restore the piece of town history.
The unearthed brick building is 20 feet deep and 18 feet wide. The 360-square-foot structure remains intact. In the front room is a toilet in the left corner. What looks like a vent pipe for a heater is in the center of the room.
The brick building has a cement floor and roof. The two front windows have metal bars running both horizontal and vertical, giving it a lattice-type appearance.
Behind the front room are two cells. Metal bars cover the windows. In one of the cells, a hanging bed frame is still attached to the brick walls by rusty bolts.
Camp said he thinks the town stopped using the jail in 1951.
In March 2011, Larry Loflin aided town employees and community service workers in unearthing the old jail. Loflin, a former town councilman, spent several days operating the town’s back hoe to carefully unearth the building.
Loflin said uncovering the jail was something he always wanted to do, too.
“I’m proud the town employees are getting involved in getting things cleaned up,” Loflin said during the reveal project. “They are doing extra things, not just the routine things.”
Loflin thinks Republic Mill No. 1 and its parking lot expanded and the jail got covered up years ago.
Loflin was excited to see the piece of town history uncovered.
“You’ve got to start with little things. Maybe it can be a calling card to the area,” Loflin said. “It’s a nice little piece of chrome for Great Falls, a forgotten piece of history.”
Camp said he plans to restart the project as soon as the weather clears up.
He said the ground was loose last year and prevented work at the site. He also said the town was “fooling” with the jail project and the island in the park area around the same time.
“I think we bit off more than we could chew,” he said.“We plan to clean up again. But we’ve got to be able to get in there.”
Camp said the town bought a new tractor last year that has a scrape blade on it.
He said it can be used to start the clean-up effort this year.
“As quick as it dries out, we plan to clean it up again. We have plans to start again this summer,” Camp said.